Recently, while putting clean dishes away one morning, I happened to come across an old coffee mug that I’d painted years ago. It had been done as part of a team-building exercise while under a former employer. The customer service team that I was on at the time had gone to a pottery shop where we each chose a basic ceramic item to paint. Once painted, the items were all fired in a kiln for that final smooth and glossy finish. Unfortunately, creative inspiration just wasn’t in the cards for me that day.
Now, I consider myself to be a fairly creative person. However, during the pottery outing that particular evening, I just wasn’t feeling inspired for whatever reason. It wasn’t that I was in a bad mood or didn’t want to be there – I was having a good time with coworkers. My mind was simply coming up blank, and I couldn’t put my finger on why. In the end, my coffee mug looked like something that Fred Flintstone might have worn. (I’m showing my age there a little, I know.)
Creativity isn’t something that’s always “on”. At least not for me anyway. Most people I know also have different times of day or certain situations that ignite a creative spark for them. I know from various things that I’ve read as well that life experiences and exposure to new and different things (i.e. travel, food, etc.) allow for better inspiration and creativity.
It was while thinking about where creativity comes from that it hit me why I had come up with such a mundane design when I painted my coffee mug during that team builder. It was simply a lack of inspiration. More specifically, it was a result of the environment that we were in. In fact, I’m now sure that this played a pretty big role in the outcome of my project.
Things have changed at that pottery place since then, but I remember the surroundings being pretty dull at the time I was there. I can recall very plain, unfinished wooden shelves containing equally dull, white ceramic pieces. There were gray chairs at the large gray tables covered with black and white newspapers, and the only color that those tables had came from the small assorted paint containers that the customers would use. It didn’t inspire creativity for me – there wasn’t anything there to ignite that spark or begin that big wave for my mind to surf on. The same was true of my former workplace as well. A floor of cubicles that all look the same doesn’t exactly scream, “I can be really creative here!”
A Creative Solution
Knowing what I do now about being creative, I know there are ways to make getting there a little easier. A big part of it is changing my scenery once in awhile. It doesn’t even need to be something that you do while working either. It can be something as simple as taking a break and going to a frozen yogurt shop for a quick treat. I’ve done this and was surprised by how some of the seemingly simple design choices made by the individual(s) who designed the interior made me think of how I could apply the same principles to something else such as a website header. You too may be surprised just how well this works if you’re in the right place. The key, though, is to be present and aware of your surroundings when you do. You need to keep you mind clear of any issues or frustrations that may have come about before venturing out. Inspiration can’t be forced, yet you need to still be open to receive it.
You don’t even need to leave your home or office either. There are many places online that you can visit virtually that can provide you with inspiration as well. Websites like Inspiration Grid and Behance offer a multitude of general design examples, while sites like Codepen cater to more code-savvy front-end developers. Even blogs like Web Design Ledger and The Design Blog have a ton to offer in the way of spurring new ideas by getting you to look at something from another point of view. Want to get inspiration for typography or even package design? There are sites dedicated to those specific niches, too. The idea behind all of this is to simply see what others are doing and get inspired by it. You may even learn a few new things along the way, which is always a good thing.
Whether you believe that the ability to create is something people are born with, learned, or even comes from some esoteric source somewhere in the universe, the fact remains that we all need a little inspiration once in awhile. Sometimes something you feel has nothing to do with inspiring creativity in fact has everything to do with it.